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Spain drama banks on Yank plank

'Police Inspector' season finale borrows from '24'

MADRID — Boundary-breaking U.S. series are impacting Spanish domestic drama.

But whether it’s all for the better is anybody’s guess, if the final episode of “Police Inspector’s” 10th season is anything to go on.

Aired Dec. 26 in primetime, 10 p.m., to midnight, the cop drama’s last seg, “Countdown,” did a “24.”

In a real-time 60-minute countdown — underscored by cuts to a clock on a bomber’s computer — a Madrid police unit has to locate and defuse the device.

And, natch, a potential tropical-virus outbreak at the station prevents bomb experts getting in — or the cops getting out.

Well, if classically, constructed, the series didn’t end with a bang. Nor did it exactly go out with a bang ratings-wise. Seg took a 21.3% share and 3.9 million viewers, compared with the 10th-season average of 23.2%.

But “Inspector” was still the highest-rated show of the day. Typical for Spain’s Boxing Day, it faced some stiff competish, including a music special on pubcaster TVE, “The Best Song of the Year” (18.0%), with Spanish pop stars such as Alejandro Sanz, which took a chunk out of both “Inspector” and the last episode in the sophomore season of “House” (18.4%).

The “24”-ization of “Inspector” isn’t likely to augur a radical U.S. makeover for Spain’s established top dramas.

“The real-time drama was aimed at making the final episode of ‘Inspector’ more exciting,” a Telecinco rep says.

“But the series has its own tried-and-tested elements, such as its focus on cutting-edge social issues such as real estate corruption, the emergence of Latin gangs in Spain, the flurry of armed robberies on deluxe chalets. It doesn’t need a total reinvention,” he adds.

But there is a question mark hanging over the long-term prospects of several aging Spanish series.

“Inspector,” the oldest, bowed in 1998. Its eighth season notched a series-high average of 4.9 million viewers and a 29.3% share. Called into combat duty on Tuesday primetime against “House” and European Champions League soccer, “Inspector” is showing some wear.

Going forward, the influence of U.S. shows on “Inspector” probably will be seen in the details: more special effects, snazzier procedurals, one or two darker segs.

New series, and Spain’s newest broadcasters, may be another matter. In January, Telecinco will bow “MIR.” In the vein of “Grey’s Anatomy,” it follows the rather public private lives and career challenges of interns at a hospital. Whether comparisons with “Grey’s Anatomy” will help or hinder the show remains to be seen.